“Ahoj!” I shouted at some startled Year 6s as they arrived at the school gates. “It’s Czech!” I explained. “It means Hi!” Mrs Cody proudly showed off her “Hello” jumper as she welcomed the children at the gate, we were greeted with a “Privet” from Mr Jeens and as I headed across the courtyard, several children said “Guten Tag!” to me, for today, Wednesday 26 September, was the European Day of Languages and we were celebrating by having a whole school game of “Hello Tag”!
Every teacher started the day with a word for hello in a European language. Whenever they met their classes or passed children in the corridor, they tagged them with that language. Only teachers were allowed to tag children; children could only be tagged and not tag other people, thus hopefully avoiding a cacophony of Chinese whisper style variations on a theme. Each lesson, their word was reset once more by the class teacher. By lunchtime, the corridors were ringing with a plethora of languages and the children were not only able to tell me a whole range of hello words but were also able to inform me which language they were in. I was filled with sheer delight when I encountered Raahul, who had filled a page in his notebook with words, their origins and who had said them to him.
And what, you may ask, was the benefit of learning a single word in lots of different languages and engaging in an insane version of a traditional children’s game? I hope that it highlighted the importance of two of our BPS values: kindness and communication. Communicating with other people, in however small a way, in their own language, helps that other person to feel more at ease and to appreciate the fact that you have made the effort to learn even the tiniest part of their language. I always find people treat me differently when I speak their language, and it does not matter how much or how little you know, the important thing is that you showed enough of an interest to attempt a word or two. It’s all about how you make other people feel.
So I hope this explains this short clip of Mr Chesworth sent from Liverpool, where he was away on a conference, standing in front of a multilingual sign, shouting “Bonjour!” to us all. He hadn’t mistakenly thought he had arrived in France, he was in fact, making sure that none of us felt left out and that we were all “tagged”, because that’s what the European Day of Languages is all about – ensuring inclusion for everyone. That, and encouraging everybody to take part, recognising that everyone can have a go at speaking a language, celebrating the 6000+ languages across the world and most of all, having fun!
This story was shared by Mrs Abbott, our Languages Lead, who organised the whole school ‘hello tag’. A variety of languages are part of the broad and creative curriculum at Banstead Prep for children of all ages.